By Gerhard Schneibel

Much of the planning that goes into creating and operating a successful restaurant is invisible to patrons. Good location, layout and kitchen design are all crucial, and the Sandy Springs-based Restaurant Consulting Group takes all of those factors into account when helping launch restaurants, as it has done successfully many times in metro Atlanta.

Tony Akly, the founder of the Restaurant Consulting Group, said the business offers restaurateurs complete support, ranging from real estate and legal advice to marketing, menu development and design, “down to the salt and pepper shakers on the table.”

The restaurants it has designed include the Mellow Mushroom pizzerias in Vinings and downtown Atlanta and several Fresh2Order and J. Christopher’s locations. It also has done work for such fast-food chains as Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but Akly said those contracts are “cookie cutter” work.

“Our forte is the higher-end or casual dining that has some design elements in it,” he said. “There may be one other company that does what we do, but other than that, nobody does what we do, which is a one-stop shop. People come to us from the start.”

Alex Kinjo, co-owner of MF Sushi in Buckhead, named one of his restaurant’s dishes, the Tony Roll, after Akly.

“We call him the godfather, basically,” Kinjo said. “He’s knowledgeable all around because he built so many restaurants, and it’s become natural to him.”

Part of what makes the Restaurant Consulting Group’s business model a success is that it takes workers from different fields and allows them to share a niche market.

“If you’re an architect, you’re hurting. If you’re an engineer, you’re hurting. If you’re a vendor, you’re hurting. In our case, we’ll do more volume this year than last year, which is very good. We feel very fortunate,” Akly said.

He has worked with the same core group of associates for years and now also works with his two sons. Ryan runs Jet Set Marketing from the Restaurant Consulting Group’s CityWalk offices, and Jonathan runs the Akly Law Group from the same location.

Akly has combined skills learned during his first career as a structural engineer with 27 years of restaurant experience. He first opened Cafe Milan at the Cobb Galleria in 1982, and he has a scrapbook full of old photographs of politicians, celebrities and prominent business people attending events there.

Designing a kitchen that can handle the intended volume of the restaurant is important, but the kitchen also has to have the right equipment to cook what’s on the menu.

The kitchen is “very important because of the flow and the function of the restaurant. If the kitchen isn’t designed right, you’re not going to be able to get the food out when it’s busy,” Akly said.

Ali Mesghali, the owner of Rumi’s Kitchen in Sandy Springs, said the Restaurant Consulting Group did “everything from A to Z.”

“They helped us find the location. They helped out with the furniture, the decoration and almost every help you need in opening a new restaurant,” he said. “The only thing that surprised me was how fast we got busy. Things have been going very good.”

When Fishmonger recently reopened at CityWalk in Sandy Springs, owner Terry Karameros knew for the most part what he wanted to do. But he turned to the Restaurant Consulting Group for help in developing a menu.

“We put a lot of planning into it,” he said. “They’ve assisted in any sort of way that was necessary. Any time we needed an opinion, whether it was decor or anything legal or accounting — anything. They’re like family to us; they’ve helped us through.”